Affordable housing proposed on Gulf Street
The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) may vote at its April 21 meeting on an 8-30g affordable housing application for a 15-unit apartment complex at 14 Gulf Street. Six neighbors spoke against the proposal, which received support from two Milford business people.
Two-Ninety Six LLC is the developer, listing Angelo Lisi as the LLC's member, giving his home address of 49 Lori Drive, Milford, as the business address. The LLC purchased the Gulf Street property and the house built in 1900 for $225,000 in March 2011.
The 0.75-acre property is zoned SFA-10, which allows attached single-family dwellings on small lots. The application was filed under the state's affordable housing regulations, Connecticut General Statute 8-30g, which overrides local zoning regulations.
Attorney Thomas Lynch presented the application on behalf of Lisi and Greg Field, who Lynch said are developers with more than 30 years of building experience.
Lynch said the existing house and garages would be demolished, and replaced with five buildings, each with three one-bedroom apartments. The apartments will be about 910 square feet in size. Five of the units would be designed for rent at affordable rates.
“We have seen in other projects approved…the people coming in are young professionals,” said Lynch. “They are adding a lot to the vitality of downtown.”
The attorney said this proposal complies with the city's Plan of Conservation and Development, which calls for “in fill residential development” within walking distance of the train station.
Lynch said the property is surrounded on two sides by the Corridor Design District-1 zone and the Residential Office district, both of which allows mixed commercial and residential uses in the same building.
“Normally I am making the argument that the zoning regulations are irrelevant” [in an 8-30g application],” said Lynch. “In this case, I am saying the regulations are relevant.”
Lynch said the city's RO zone does allow 8-30g developments, and he considered requesting a zone change, but the RO zone has a minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet, and this parcel is only 32,000 square feet.
Project engineer Ronald Wassmer said the house is on the east side of Gulf Street, at the rear of office buildings and Shop Rite on Cherry Street. South of the property are other homes, and St. Mary Church and school.
Wassmer said each of the 15 townhouse-style units would have its own garage with a parking space in front, and there would be an additional 15 parking spaces. The plans call for retaining the mature trees at the rear of the property, adding a sidewalk in front, installing a hydrant, and erecting three light poles. The buildings would be oriented with one side facing Gulf Street.
Board member Jeanne Cervin requested additional landscaping, saying, “The side of the building facing the street is not very aesthetically appealing.”
In response, Wassmer said there is an existing street tree and another is proposed, adding, “We could put in some small shrubs.”
David Spear, traffic engineer for the project, said a state Department of Transportation report from 2012 showed 12,200 vehicles per day on Cherry Street at Gulf Street. In front of the site, he recorded 850 trips in the morning peak hour and 1,000 trips in the evening peak hour. He said the DOT reported only three accidents in the area over a three-year period.
Spear estimates the apartments will generate 11 trips in the peak morning hour and 14 trips in the peak evening hour. He expects they will have no effect on the level of service at the traffic light serving Gulf and Cherry streets. At peak hours, Spear said traffic will back up on Gulf Street south to the site driveway, but when the light changes, traffic moves, which would permit access to the property.
Lee Cook, retired Milford fire marshal, spoke on behalf of the applicant, saying the hydrant was added to the plans at the request of the current Milford fire marshal. Cook said there is adequate space on the site for fire department access, and said the city fire marshal also requested sprinklers in the building.
Board members raise questions
Board member Jim Quish said there are two rooms on the second floor and asked if there would be any restriction to prevent one room from being used as a second bedroom.
Lynch said such a room would typically be used as a study or den, commenting that a bedroom would have a closet that this room does not have. He said the board could add the restriction that the building department conduct periodic inspections to make sure the other room is not used as a second bedroom.
Board member Michael Dolan asked City Planner David B. Sulkis if the board denied the plan and the developer filed a lawsuit, would the lawsuit prevail.
In response, Sulkis said, “It's up to the board to determine if there is some overriding danger to the health, safety and welfare to the community. I think it would be very difficult to say we would have a chance to win an appeal of this, based on what was brought out this evening,” referring to the settlement for the 8-30g application at 1556 New Haven Avenue.
Commenting on the traffic situation, Lynch said his office is on Cherry Street and he attends church at St. Mary. He said that “courteous drivers” allow cars to alternate as they leave the church, allowing cars to “dissipate through the traffic signal.” He said the property has excellent site lines. “You can't ask for a better situation,” said Lynch.
Lynch said that traffic backups happen in a “vibrant downtown” and he said that courts do not recognize an increase in traffic as a safety issue.
Board member Carl Moore asked about handicap accessibility on the property.
Lynch said none is required because there are only three units in each building. In response to the question, Wassmer said one of the surface parking spaces would be designed as handicap accessible.
Public Support and Opposition
Speaking in favor of the application was Melissa Marter of Stratford, who owns a business in building at 100 Gulf St. Marter said downtown stores are strug-gling and need customers, and she said there is also a need for affordable housing. City records show the building at 100 Gulf St. is owned by Lisi.
Also speaking in favor was William McNeil of Orange, president of Assurance Associates Inc. at 3 Gulf Street, and the building owner.
“The project has been very well thought out,” said McNeil. He said he has waited up to 15 minutes for traffic to clear, so he could enter Gulf Street, but said the project “would not add to traffic and would increase the value of properties.”
Opposed to the project was Terese Sirico of Field Court, who said the traffic study was done when the beaches were not open and storefronts are vacant. Sirico said there could easily be two cars per unit in the 15 units, which could be a danger to the church and school nearby.
Commenting on the property across the street, Sirico said, “With all those headlights coming in, they will not be afraid of the dark.”
Immediately following was Diane Gendreau of 15 Gulf Street, the house across the street. Gendreau said the proposed sidewalk is just in that location with no connecting sidewalks on adjacent properties.
“On my side is a sidewalk that goes all the way down,” said Gendreau. “While cars are idling, all those fumes are coming into my unit.” She said all the trees at 14 Gulf Street have been removed except one, but that one has no limbs on it.
Will Gendreau of 15 Gulf Street said in the 35 years he has lived there, “I can count on one hand the number of people who came from the church and let me out. I think Gulf Street is a traffic disaster.”
Paul Abel of 34 Gulf Street said “traffic is horrendous” on Gulf Street and said drivers are not courteous. “I have sat for minutes in my driveway, waiting to get out, especially if anything is going on at St. Mary's church or school,” he said. “They have cut down all the trees on the property. One is standing with all the limbs taken off.”
Claudio Antonini of 50 Gulf Street said the number of units and the number of cars creates a safety issue. He said there have been more than three accidents in three years.
“I moved to the city 15 years ago, based on what it looked like,” said Antonini. “Considering what is happening, I wouldn't more here again.”